By Abdi Ali
Sunday April 3, 2022
The carnage in Beledweyne is a shocking reminder of how the lines between the “government” and terrorists are now blurred.
Our prayers are with the families of those who were brutally murdered in the horrific Beledweyne terrorist carnage. It is indicative of the dreadful realities of where Somalia is today and a potent reminder, if any were needed, of how the lines between “government” and terrorists have indeed blurred in the last five years.
Terrorist attacks were always the ever more present threat in Somalia. The country’s susceptibility to terrorist outrages was often explained away as being largely due to the absence of effective government that could deal with the country’s insecurity adequately. Indeed, the thousands of deaths over the years, largely in Mogadishu, and countless bereaved families tell their own story.
However, what is deeply chilling is the new reality the people of Mogadishu, and other parts of the country, face: being a political opponent of the government, or an opinion maker, or civil rights activist, is now staggeringly correlated with a violent death from terrorism.
The fingerprints of elements within the Somali government - a government that was always invisible when dealing with the threat from terrorism - is now visible in the outcome from terrorist atrocities. As a consequence, certain presumptions one had about the underlying causes of the monstrosities that had been happening in the country have changed. It means there is now a growing and visible “political” dimension to the terrorist mass murders we see everywhere, especially in Mogadishu. Indeed, what happened in Beledweyne is the latest manifestation of this new reality taken to horrific levels.
The implications of this are as shocking as they are extraordinary: it has now become impossible to draw the line between who is a terrorist, who is the “government” or who is the terrorist moonlighting for the government, or who is both.
Targeted killings of the country’s best and brightest
Consider this: in a tearful speech at Amina’s funeral the other day, Somalia’s prime minster disclosed how he received threatening messages, warning him against the election of Amina Mohamed as a Member of Parliament (MP). This is the prime minster of Somalia, one who conceivably has the security forces at his disposal, recalling in terrifying detail how members of his own government threatened to unleash terror on Amina if she was not stopped from becoming an MP. A few hours after these messages, Amina and fifty other innocent people were blown up to pieces in a double suicide attack in Beledweyne that left nearly two hundred others injured.
One could argue the prime minster was professing false sympathies without doing anything, and should have prevented this atrocity. This is indeed true to a degree but erroneously assumes that he is in charge, which he is not. However, what is indeed more likely is that he himself is in fear of his life and the real message from his tearful speech thus takes on a more troubling and horrifying meaning: he is alerting the world, and the people of Mogadishu in particular, that he knows who the terrorists that committed these heinous atrocities in Beledweyne were, and they are part of his government. In this context, he is confirming what many knew for years: elements within the Somali government are the extended arms of the terrorists.
Amina Mohamed was targeted because she stood up for justice and was the sole voice of Ikran Tahliil’s family, whose daughter was made to disappear without a trace. Here you have a determined MP, seeking to bring justice and closure for the family of a constituent who was then herself, and over fifty others, violently killed in order to silence her.
All of this means the sickening inevitability of what happened to Amina is intended to drive home a key message: much worse would happen to anyone who dares to seek justice or becomes a political opponent. And there are other implications too: how many more other opinion-makers, entrepreneurs, civil activists, military and security officers, MPs and political opponents have been killed in this way over the years or now have a bull’s eye on their backs? Is this the reason not a single atrocity or mass murder over the last five years was ever investigated, nor perpetrators brought to justice?
What is happening is beyond Farmaajo’s dictatorial thirst for office and murderous political vindictiveness. It is an altogether new phase of repression, using terrorists as a dictatorial weapon.
For the sake of the country’s future, the need for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this has never been more urgent.
Amina’s death must not be in vain
The horrors in Beledweyne mean many families are today feeling a loss that is personal, unimaginably painful and deeply traumatising. Many of those that were murdered will leave behind a generation of orphaned dependents who are too fragile to live a normal life. The nearly two hundred people who suffered life-changing injuries face a bleak future without long-term care. Beledweyne’s only functioning hospital – the only facility for the entire city and surrounding villages - was destroyed in the terrorist attack. The implications this will have for the people of Beledweyne is hard to overstate.
Amina’s indomitable courage became a potent symbol of justice and a shining example for millions. Her family has lost a bright young MP who had everything going for her. Ikran’s family, already deprived of the dignity of their daughter’s burial, has lost their only voice and their agony of not knowing what happened to their daughter will continue. Somalia lost an irreplaceable, impossible-times role model whose courage will inspire future generations. She joins countless others that were brutally murdered for who they were and what they represented – justice, democracy and prosperity.
This is why Somalia is at its most dangerous phase now. These killings are intended to force the people to make a fateful choice: a continuation of Farmaajo’s dictatorial savagery or oblivion. We must reject this false choice. We cannot let the lives and aspirations of millions of Somalis manacled by the murderous thuggery of a dictator.
Amina stood up for justice and against tyranny at great personal risk. She paid the ultimate price.
Her death must not be in vain.
Allow wadankeena iyo dadkeena usoo gargaar.